Hank Morris is sent to prison at his sentencing today
As his family openly wept inside a Manhattan courtroom, disgraced Democratic political consultant Hank Morris was sentenced this morning to 1 1/3 to four years behind bars for his role in an influence-peddling scandal involving the state's pension fund.
"I love you. I love everybody. I'll see you soon," Morris shouted to his wife and family before he was hauled off in handcuffs.
Morris, 57, had pleaded guilty last year, but that didn't stop his lawyer William Schwartz from asking the judge if the one-time Alan Hevesi consultant could start his jail term next week.
"No. It's time to go. You're remanded," barked Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lewis Bart Stone.
Two rows packed with Morris family members openly wept as Morris, wearing a dark suit, was handcuffed.
At that point, his wife, sitting in the aisle, tried to give him one last hug, prompting Morris to say, "I love you" to her.
Morris pleaded guilty last November to securities fraud, admitting that he used his political connections to Hevesi, the former state comptroller, to get millions of dollars in payouts for himself in a large "pay-to-play" scheme.
"I'm sorry if I let you down," Morris told the judge before he was sentenced. "Simply put, my actions undermined the integrity of New York state and, more importantly, made [the public] question their faith in government. ... For too long, I was blind."
On the verge of tears, Morris added, "Words can not express my remorse."
As part of the plea deal, Morris agreed to forfeit $19 million he made as part of soliciting contributions for Hevesi from firms looking for state business.
Morris is also permanently banned from the securities industry in New York and disbarred.
“Today, justice was served on Hank Morris, who will be appropriately punished for his role in one of the largest pay-to-play schemes in New York State history,” said State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
"Today’s sentencing decision by the court sends a strong message to New Yorkers that those who abuse positions of power to line their own pockets will be held accountable by this office."
Had the crooked consultant not taken the plea and instead been convicted of the top charge he was indicted on in 2009 -- enterprise corruption -- he would face a maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Schwartz had argued for probation or community service.
"Life as he knows it is over. A message has been sent," Morris' lawyer said.
But the judge disagreed.
"While it is not likely that Morris will do it again in the future, a criminal sentence must consider more than that," he said.